Nikki is a stay at home mom with a young boy named Jerry. Nikki was introduced to Ready Set Go through playgroups in the summer of 2017. These playgroups offer parents free resources that help their children learn developmental skills in a structured, social, and play-based environment.
In Jerry’s case, the playgroups were pivotal because by the age of 3, he rarely had structured experiences outside of his home, and he had never been around other kids his age.
The playgroups also proved to be helpful to Nikki, as she had a weekly opportunity to leave the house and have meaningful interactions with other adults.
As Nikki was getting more engaged with Ready Set Go, she realized that she was hiding some fears about Jerry. She had questions about his speech development and his struggles with potty training. She was also experiencing extreme behavioral issues with Jerry that seemed to come and go. Some days would go as smoothly as possible, while others would be interrupted with unexpected outbursts that would ruin the rest of the day.
Although she was giving a lot of thought to these questions, she was afraid of what the answer might be, so she didn’t share her concerns with anybody. Not Ready Set Go, and not even her husband.
Caitlin Cicero, who led the playgroup, had gone through special training that helps identify kids who may be on the autism spectrum. Caitlin had already done a series of developmental screenings with Nikki and Jerry and had noticed some developmental categories where Jerry was under the bar of where he should have been for his age.
Then, one day during a playgroup, Jerry had one of his outbursts. Caitlin was able to intervene to help cool down Jerry. After all had cleared, Caitlin and Nikki had a conversation, and Caitlin asked Nikki if she had ever considered that Jerry could potentially have autism.
Nikki’s head instantly dropped, as her fears had just been spoken into existence. All this time, she was having this same thought, but was afraid of expressing it. And she didn’t want to be the overprotective mother who came off as paranoid by asking too many questions at the doctor’s office.
But hearing Caitlin’s question made it real. Now that she had another person with the same opinion, Nikki knew she had to have Jerry screened, so she called the doctor from the parking lot and set up an appointment.
Nikki began preparing herself for the worst while being careful to not stress Jerry out during the series of tests that followed.
Finding a clear diagnosis for Jerry proved to be a journey in its own right. Jerry was first diagnosed only with a developmental delay, which gave answers for his speech and potty training issues, but still did not give answers to his extreme behavior issues.
Caitlin and Ready Set Go were able to work with Nikki through the process and act as an advocate and support group as she navigated through multiple appointments and different types of doctors.
After some more behavioral issues began to occur, Nikki was able to piece some things together. Jerry’s most severe outbursts occurred in times when he was overly stimulated or had a change in his routine.
Nikki reported these latest developments to Jerry’s doctor when visiting for an ear infection. The doctor went back through Jerry’s previous screening results and realized the signs for autism had been there all along, and these latest signs were confirmation.
Jerry finally had the autism diagnosis that Nikki had both feared, and been hoping to hear, so that she could finally have some answers and come up with a plan for Jerry going forward.
That plan included getting Jerry enrolled in Pre-K and working with an intervention specialist to form an Individualized Education Program that was just right for Jerry.
Nikki also learned how to create a sensory bag that can travel with the family on trips outside of the house and can help Jerry calm down when he starts to experience sensory overload.
The past two years have been a rollercoaster for Nikki, but the family is making progress and Jerry is doing well. Jerry is now ready to start kindergarten. In fact, his teachers say he’s MORE than ready to start. The teachers always point out Jerry as an example of what the other students should be doing, and everybody loves him.